Monday, November 27, 2023

Hilton Head Island: The Year Earth Changed; Ted Lasso and taking responsibility for your own life; taxed

We are in the middle of a three month free trial to Apple TV+.  I do not know if I will pay for it after the trial ends.  When you are in the oldest 1% of the human population you cannot expect that any business that lives and dies by mass numbers is going to target you, and most of Apple TV+ content is appropriately aimed at those several generations younger than I and with different interests and standards.  I would like to see the Apple films of KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, which I read, and NAPOLEON, but they will not be streamed for a while.

In the meantime, we were impressed with the documentary, THE YEAR EARTH CHANGED.  That was the year of COVID lock down during which our species mostly stayed inside at home, resulting in quick and great changes in the rest of the world.  Within a few days air pollution decreased so that the Himalayas were seen at never before in recent times distances, whales in the Gulf of Alaska were able to communicate better in the absence of the noise of cruise ship propellers, penguins in South Africa were able to make more trips to and from the ocean to feed their young in the absence of crowds of us on the beaches, and, as they say, more.  Much more.

Unfortunately in the U.S. the film seems to be only on Apple TV+.  If you can see it, I strongly recommend you do.

We have also now watched all three seasons of Ted Lasso, of which we had heard much.

The series is very uneven.  Some of it is funny and clever.  Some of it is not.  Characters don’t remain in character.  Ted displays greater ignorance of English football—soccer to Americans—than even that of a casual fan.  And one episode in the second season, a drunken night crawl by an assistant coach, is so bad and so inconsistent with the rest of the series that I told Carol, one more like that and I am through.  The writers and director seemingly recognized their mistake and there was not another like it.  I think the problem is that with its success, there became too much time to fill.  The first season has ten episodes, each about a half hour long.  The second and third seasons run twelve episodes each, with those in the third season running about an hour long.  To fill them the series went off on many irrelevant tangents.

Having said all that, we did watch to the end.  Not in my opinion one of the all time great comedy series, and not in itself a reason to subscribe to Apple TV+, but entertaining and in the penultimate episode, briefly profound.

In that episode one character recites without attribution what is obviously a poem.  Carol immediately commented, “That’s your philosophy.”  And in part it is.

I googled and learned that the poem is “This Be The Verse” by an Englishman, Philip Larkin, who is famous in England, but of whom I had not known.  Here it is:

The last two lines certainly apply to me.  I got out as soon as I could—I just realized that 2023 marks fifty years debt free; and next year will mark fifty years since I last worked for anyone else—and I deliberately never had children, not because I feared ‘fucking them up’, to quote Mr. Larkin, but because I knew negatively from my own childhood that if you have children you owe them a lot for a long time and I did not believe I could be a good parent and live the life I wanted to and have.

I believe the greatest strength is absorbing the evil done to you and not pass it on.  This is a Christian virtue not much practiced by those who call themselves Christian, now or ever.  Most Christians have always preferred to stick with the Old Testament and seek revenge.

I do not know that I have lived up to that, but I have tried and like to believe that I have learned and am doing better than I did when younger.

You have never read or heard me blame my parents, natural or step.  I have related some facts such as that my parents separated before I was born and I only saw my father for perhaps twenty minutes, and I was not close to my mother or stepfather.  This in part I knew as a child because I reminded my mother of my father, whether justly or not I had and have no way of knowing.

I have said that I have lived the life I wanted to live and I have understood it as I have done so.  I can point to the minute my life moved from the part I call Longing to the part I call Being.  11 AM, Saturday, November 2, 1974, when I pushed the engineless EGREGIOUS away from the dock in San Diego for my first attempt at Cape Horn.

I also know when I took full responsibility for my life, though not as precisely.  It was when I was thirteen.  I had a minor accomplishment that year.  The details do not matter.  But I observed that my mother took all the credit and I realized that if I blamed my parents for what was wrong with me, they also had the right to claim what was good about me, and I did not believe they deserved to or want to share that, so I decided Webb Chiles is responsible for Webb Chiles.  Period.  No excuses.  No blaming others.  It has worked out pretty well.

I hardly had the South Carolina registration numbers on the bow before I got a tax bill for GANNET from Beaufort County.  Carol and I got the numbers on the port bow Tuesday.  The tax bill arrived Friday.  It is for $66.46 for the year.  I can handle that.  One of the many virtues of owning a small, old, great boat.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Hilton Head Island: anchored upon; hot; AI weather forecasting and ‘rogue’ waves

Carol and I went for a brief sail Sunday afternoon. 

The wind was gusty from the northeast, sometimes heading us as we went out Skull Creek, so at times we sailed under mainsail alone, at times motorsailed with the Evo engaged.  As we entered Port Royal Sound the wind increased to 20 knots, which on or aft the beam would have made for good sailing in the open ocean, but was a handful, literally, in close quarters and roughed up the sound beyond anchoring except in an emergency.  So we turned around and sailed back up Skull Creek and anchored a half hour before sunset in 15’ of smooth water a couple of hundred yards northwest of the marina.

Between the marina and the Port Royal Sound are almost a mile of sand patches barely above the surface at high tide.  The Intracoastal curves west of those islets, but there is also water to the east which in theory is deep enough for GANNET to pass on that side.  Some boats do.  Mostly small power boats and multihulls.  I have always followed the Intracoastal.  A multihull, about 45’, was anchored a half mile away from us on that shallow waterway.

Carol and I were sitting on deck sipping margaritas I had made at the condo when we saw a mast approaching.  As it came nearer and passed the anchored multihull it was revealed to be another about 45’ catamaran being towed by a small red hulled TowBoat US, heading directly for us.  The sun was setting, but it was still full daylight.  Carol said, “He is going to come over and anchor on top of us.”  And that’s just what he did.  We watched the tow boat slow and drift back beside the catamaran for consultation, then go forward and take the strain again and with a clear half mile of empty water in all directions bring the catamaran to within a few boat lengths of GANNET where the cat, whose crew of a man and a woman, dropped anchor.  Sigh.

The man, who was at the helm, which on that boat was at least fifteen feet above the water, shouted to us, “Are you staying the night?”

Carol hears better than I and relayed the message.  I shouted back, ‘Yes.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to move.”

I did not reply but thought, I guess you will.

He shouted again, “We lost a rudder and an engine.”

I am not aware of any severe weather around here recently and have never sailed on such a boat so do not know how they handle, yet I wonder if one rudder and one engine are not enough.  They are all I have ever had, if I’ve had an engine at all.

So they raised anchor, which of course only required pushing a button, and the tow boat hauled them a quarter mile back from where they had approached and they anchored again.  Why they didn’t stop there the first time I do not know.

We finished our margaritas and went below to share a good bottle of red wine and excellent chicken breast sandwiches Carol had made ashore, followed by half a brownie each, and a good night’s sleep.

You may have heard of Brazil’s current extreme heat wave because a fan died at a Taylor Swift concert there.  However the heat is startling as well as deadly.

The heat index in Rio set a record a few days ago of 58.5C/137F.  And this is Rio de Janeiro, not Death Valley.  Or wasn’t.  I know from personal experience in Hilton Head summers that a heat index of 105F/40.5C is dangerous.  At least for this old man.

No conclusion here, just observation.

Of weather and waves I have recently come across two articles of interest about AI.

As you know during hurricane season I download both the US and European GRIBs daily.  The European, ECMWF, has the reputation of being the more accurate.  Now there is a study that shows that an AI model named GraphCast has outperformed ECMWF in 90% of 1,380 metrics.  This is very good news for better weather forecasting in the future.  Whether it is good or bad news that AI may make our species obsolete is a matter of opinion.

I thank Mark for the other AI article, this one about the much greater frequency of ‘rogue’ waves than had been believed.

I put ‘rogue’ in quotes because that is an example of the pathetic fallacy, humans applying human characteristics to insentient forces, and I note a shift in the rather modest definition of such waves as being “at least twice the height of a formation’s ’significant wave height’ or the mean of the largest one-third of a wave pattern.’  That doesn’t seem very unusual to me and such waves are not likely ‘monsters’.

In nine or ten years at sea I have never seen a huge wave.  I do not doubt they exist, but the biggest waves I have seen were I judge about 30’ high, which is big enough.

However I have often seen waves that meet the above definition.

Some of you may remember that the most dangerous moments of GANNET’s circumnavigation did not come in her two 55 knot gales, but on a sunny, moderate wind day in the South Pacific on the passage between Honolulu and Apia, Samoa, when suddenly two 10’/3 meter waves appeared at right angles to the prevalent 3’/1 meter wave pattern, knocked GANNET onto her beam and held her there for long moments with the ocean almost reaching the opened companionway.  Had it done so we would have gone down.

Those waves were three times the significant wave height and meet the ‘rogue’ definition.  They were dangerous, but they were not the 80’ walls of water of the article writer’s imagination.  

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Hilton Head Island: half legal; 1986; breakfast on EGREGIOUS


The South Carolina registration and home port decals arrived yesterday, but first I had to remove the Illinois numbers from the bow.  I bought a spray bottle of decal remover from Amazon.  I read and followed the instructions.  I applied it repeatedly.  It did nothing.  On leaving the marina I threw the still almost full bottle in the trash.  On returning to the condo I did more research and bought from Amazon a 3M eraser wheel, something of which I had not previously known exists.  It is an attachment for a hand drill.  I dutifully attached it to my DeWalt battery hand drill and it removed the Illinois numbers from the starboard bow quickly and easily.  I am quite pleased.

Today Carol and I went down and as you can see applied the South Carolina numbers to the starboard bow and home port to the transom.  We have done this before and it all went as it should.

GANNET has never had a home port.  For those who live elsewhere, in the U.S. vessels documented by the U.S. government must display a home port.  Vessels registered with a state may, but are not required to do so.  Of my vessels, only EGREGIOUS—San Diego; THE HAWKE OF TUONELA —Boston; and now GANNET have had home ports on their hulls.  I have said that my home port is the world, but I expect Hilton Head to be my last land home and am pleased that GANNET now has a home too.

At present the little boat has South Carolina numbers on her starboard bow and Illinois numbers on her port bow.

Carol and I are going sailing tomorrow and will anchor somewhere for the night.  When we return I will go into the slip bow first which will put the port bow to the dock and this coming week I will replace the Illinois numbers with the South Carolina ones and end small boat schizophrenia.

You can clearly see the difference in color between areas I have recently touched up and the faded coats I applied eleven years ago.  I will polish the hull to see if I can make them blend together.  If not the little boat will be repainted next year and we will have to apply decals again.

I had the pleasant surprise this morning of receiving these two photos from Graham in Australia along with this email:

My friends, Rex Byrne and his partner, Louise Wilson, met you on Lord Howe Island in 1986 and just sent me the photos below. They were in their early 20s in 1986. Clive Wilson (still alive) is Louise's uncle. Rex was  a young singlehander who fell in love with Louise when passing through in 82. They did not have a boat in 1986 but have since done a couple of circumnavigations and are still cruising.

I thanked Graham and replied:

Lord Howe is as beautiful an island as I have ever seen and not much known outside of Australia and New Zealand, which may be to its advantage.

Almost forty years ago.  Hard to believe.

Give my regards to Rex and Louise when you can.

I have sailed to Lord Howe twice.  It is located 420 nautical miles ENE of Sydney, Australia.  It is a small island only 6 miles/10 kilometers long.  The regulations may have changed, but when I was there the number of permanent residents was limited to 400 and the number of visitors on the island at any one time was also limited to 400 in a noble effort to preserve its great natural beauty.

In the photos the blond is Jill.  The funny looking fellow with the mustache is me.  And RESURGAM’s hull was a deep burgundy, not the brick red the photo has become with age.

Carol and I biked to a supermarket yesterday.  When together, I push the shopping cart while she forages.  I was standing obediently in place in an aisle and looked at the nearby shelves and found an old friend:

Almost everything changes in fifty years.  I certainly have.  But Clabber Girl Baking Powder has not.  I recognized it instantly and turned a can around to see if the same biscuit recipe is on the back.  It is and on the EGREGIOUS circumnavigation those biscuits were my breakfast every morning at sea when I could light the stove, which on EGREGIOUS was a two-burner kerosene Origo.  I first read of such stoves in a British magazine that said they run on paraffin.  As an American I wondered how they got the wax into them until I learned that the British call kerosene paraffin.  Another of their endearing eccentricities.

I had no oven and baked on the stove top on a low rack in a frying pan with lid.  The biscuits were very good.  I ate them with jam or honey.

This was long before I learned the virtues of uncooked oatmeal.  

I cooked more on EGREGIOUS than I ever have again.  One trend in my life has been toward simplicity.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Hilton Head Island: unwanted; two poems; a quote for the 20th Century

Carol wanted to go to Harbor Town at the other end of the island and spend a couple of nights in the marina there.  I was willing to oblige, although Harbor Town is touristy with the circular marina lined with shops and restaurants and short term rentals.  I thought we might sail the eight miles there this Saturday and come back Monday.  However when I went to their site this morning I got a shock.  The last time I checked their rates was several months, maybe a year ago.  Then the transit rate was $3 a foot per night with a 30’ minimum.  $90 a night to dock GANNET is high, but we were prepared to pay it.  This morning I find the rate has been raised to $4 a foot per night with a 50’ minimum.  $200 a night for a 24’ boat is outrageous.  We have paid that much for a hotel room, but to dock GANNET?  No.  Somehow I sense that they don’t want small boats and I have no desire to go where I am not wanted.  Their loss.  Had GANNET been in that marina she would have graced it and, among all the big multimillion dollar yachts, almost certainly been the one who had sailed most, and I would have sailed more than all the other owners combined.  Probably several times over.  But as a comment on my last entry correctly observed:  People have sailboats for many different reasons.  Sailing is far down that list.  I believe the anonymous who wrote that was attempting to justify not sailing.  Fine.  Just don’t claim to be a sailor and admit that your boat, sail or power, is a toy and a status symbol for those who are impressed by cost and not skill and achievement.

We may go sailing and anchor in Port Royal Sound.  As far as I know that is still free and the company is better.


And from BISMARK’S WAR which is about the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, a question from a child.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Hilton Head Island: snowbird season

Snowbirds—those moving their boats south for the winter—pass every day at this time of year.  Three so far this morning,  And not one of them has a scrap of sail set.  This is odd because for the past several days the wind has been ten or twelve knots from the north which is behind them and would have made for fine sailing mostly on a broad reach.

I checked as I probably do each year and the distance from Norfolk, Virginia, to Miami, Florida, on the Intracoastal is 1,090 miles.  Skull Creek is beautiful and I expect other parts of the Intracoastal are too, but that is a lot of powering.  More than I have done total in my six circumnavigations.

I have gone up and down the East Coast several times, always on the outside and sailing.  I have stopped in Beaufort, North Carolina, twice, other times I went non-stop from Florida to New England or vice versa.

That no sail is set on these boats can only be due to there being no sailors on them.  Just owning a boat with a mast does not make one a sailor, though I expect these people call themselves sailors and regale their acquaintances with stories of their ‘adventures’.  As I have observed you are what you actually do not what you talk about doing, and sailors sail.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Hilton Head Island: another pushup


I gave a talk at a local yacht club a couple of weeks ago and I began it with a variation on my CCA acceptance speech from five years ago.

Back then I said:  Age 76 and the year 2018 are numbers from science fiction.   So how much more are age 82 and the year 2023.  It is in some ways amusing to be in the oldest 1% of our species, but this is becoming absurd.  As you can see from the above photo taken on the last passage of GANNET’s circumnavigation, I am fading.

I also now have to do another push-up.

I have told this story before, but in early 1993 I gave a lecture series on the east coast, starting in Boston and ending in Miami.  Steve Earley and his father attended in Norfolk, but I did not know him then.  He says I am one of the influences that led to his becoming the most experienced coastal open boat sailor, so I have done some good.

In Annapolis I was asked how I stay in condition.  I related my workouts, including doing my age in pushups.  I was a mere 51 then and added, “Just think what great shape I’ll be in when I’m 100.”  Everyone laughed as I intended them too.  But, my word, I’m getting there.

If you know anything about me, you know I plan and I prepare, so I have already been doing 82 push-ups and crunches in the first set of my standard workout for the past three weeks.  I’m good for another year.


Thursday, November 9, 2023

Hilton Head Island: a new Southerner; tall ships; fifth highest; from SOLO FACES

 GANNET is now officially a Southerner.

A month ago I mailed the paperwork to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to retitle and reregister GANNET from Illinois to South Carolina, and then nothing happened.  This began to worry me because I had to send GANNET’s Illinois title and registration with my application and without them I would have major problems.  Day after day passed without my check for the modest $20 fee being cashed.  Because GANNET’s electric outboard is the equivalent of only 3 horsepower, I did not have to register it.  Outboards 5 horsepower and greater must be registered in South Carolina for another $20.

Finally yesterday morning I found that my check had been cashed and yesterday afternoon I received the South Carolina title in the mail.  I have not yet received the new registration, but I  know GANNET’s new South Carolina registration number and expect the document will eventually appear.

I am pleased and relieved.

Of my boats only THE HAWKE OF TUONELA had a home port on her stern—Boston.  She was a documented vessel and that was required.  For much of my sailing life, my home port has been The World.

GANNET is not documented, but this is her and my home and in the not too distant future Hilton Head Island will appear on her transom.

I thank Andy for the photograph above of a replica of the NAO TRINIDAD, Magellan’s flag ship, which recently docked at Crisfield, Maryland.

I do not share nostalgia about tall ships and the old days of sail, but she is unusual looking.  I always wonder how with such freeboard, particularly aft, such vessels did not capsize in the slightest breeze.

The TRINIDAD was not the first ship to circumnavigate.  Of the five ships that left Seville, Spain, in 1519, only one, NAO VICTORIA, returned in 1522.  Magellan himself was killed in what are now the Philippines.

At the end of the first year of my open boat voyage, I left CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE in the backyard of a British ex-pat who lived in Suva, Fiji, and Suzanne and I sailed as crew to New Zealand on a Swan 48.  While we were in Auckland there was a Tall Ships Parade.  The only requirement to be a tall ship was that the vessel have two masts.  I regretted not having sailed CHIDIOCK to New Zealand where she could have participated as the smallest Tall Ship.

I thank Larry for this link to an article stating the highest recorded gust of Hurricane Otis of 205 mph/178 knots is the fifth highest ever recorded over land.  That the wind increased from only tropical storm strength in twelve hours is beyond understanding.

I am rereading and enjoying James Salter’snovel about a mountain climber, SOLO FACES.  I just came across this:

What he had done, what he would do, he did not want explained.  Something was lost that way.  The things that were of greatest value, that he had paid so much for were his alone.


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Hilton Head Island: The Admiral in her gig; what the weather can be; horror and more Shostakovich


Above is Audrey, Admiral of Audrey’s and Kent’s Armada of small boats, which numbers around twenty, sitting in their latest addition, HENNING, a 12’ Bahamas dinghy, built between 1937 and 1941, which makes it older than I am which as we know is really old.  Kent’s part in the Armada is self-described as ‘moveable ballast’, but he does a bit more than that, including being Fleet Photographer.

You can read more at:

I thank John for sending me an image of the above painting which he tells me hangs in the San Francisco Yacht Club and is titled, What the Weather Can Be.  I like it.  I’ve not been to the yacht club.  I have been in that weather more times than I can remember.

I finished reading LENINGRAD:  SIEGE AND SYMPHONY yesterday and I also completed listening to Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony movement by movement.  I will now set aside an hour and twenty minutes and listen to it all the way through again.

However in the last pages of the book I read of the most horrible act I have ever known one of our species to perform.  I accept that it was performed by a woman who had been driven insane by the terror and deprivations of the siege.  Still she did something that I would not have thought possible for a human to do and that one did has expanded my understanding of our species.  I am not going to give details and I suppose I am only writing this because it is still troubling me and too close to the surface of my mind.

Other than that incident, I recommend the book, particularly if you have any interest in music, although it is about the siege as much as the symphony.

After finishing LENINGRAD, I read more in Wikipedia about siege and symphony and Shostakovich.

The almost three year siege is described as the greatest destruction and loss of life in any modern city.  The number of deaths is estimated at more than 1,500,000.

While part of the first movement of Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony is generally considered ‘The Invasion Theme’ and to be about the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, there is evidence that Shostakovich wrote it before the invasion and that it was about the Stalin Terror in the 30s.  Shostakovich was twice denounced by the Party.  In the 30s and again after the war.  The second time he slept on the landing near the elevator outside his apartment so that when they came to arrest him his family would not be disturbed.  He never was arrested and in fact was compelled later to join the party, but he lived with the fear, as did everyone in the Soviet Union, from the mid-1930s until Stalin’s death in 1953, of being taken at any moment, tortured and shot.

Fortunately due to chance of birth, you and I do not.